A Hui Hou

If you know me, have read this blog or follow my Facebook business page, you KNOW that I am a huge Disney fan!  I won’t bore you with the particulars, but let’s just say I take every opportunity available to do anything remotely Disney related!  And when I found out I was going to be able to visit my sister in Hawai’i, I immediately found out how we could make a visit to Disney’s Aulani a reality!

For three amazing days and two fabulous nights, we felt like queens on vacation – gorgeous beaches, fabulous pools, no shortage of activities and sunsets beyond compare.  We enjoyed meeting characters, the lazy river, snorkeling and a sense of calm and rejuvenation – which by itself was miraculous while traveling with two toddlers!!!

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then I will seriously go over the recommended blog parameters.  I kept taking so many – because it is SO beautiful!!!!  I would love to share with you my favorite pictures from Aulani – descriptions in the captions.

I love how Disney gently weaves the history, culture and Hawai’ian experience throughout this incredible resort – from the shave ice stations, to Dole whip…..yes, mom – DOLE WHIP, to the exposure of Hawai’ian words and folklore into the very space surrounding guests.  As with all my experiences with Disney so far, I feel enveloped in the theme of Aulani and have to say A Hui Hou…..until we meet again!

20191015_144743

Koi Pond with the lobby in the background

20191015_133457

Main pool at Aulani

20191015_144606

View from the 11th floor towards the garden/pool area

20191015_133410

Lagoon 1 – Aulani’s beach area – Fabulous snorkeling and if you are staying at Aulani, there are free beach toys, boogie boards and beach chairs! Paddle boards and snorkel gear for rent.

20191015_141627

View from one of our balconies – and Char’s first shave ice! AND the 5 beautiful leis we received at check in!

20191016_054657

You know you’re a tourist in Hawai’i if you have leis in your fridge! They were just too beautiful not to keep!

20191017_121503

Enjoying the lazy river!

20191016_181120

Sunset from the infinity pool.

20191016_184611

Sunset looking over the beach

20191015_175505

#thisleigetsaround

20191015_180134

Char playing her Ukulele at sunset…so perfectly cliche!!!

20191015_182020

Stunning sunset off Sunset Point

20191015_182425

Sunset Perfection!!!

20191017_102831

My plate loaded up for our character breakfast.

20191017_102822

OK – this is stinkin’ adorable….half a banana swimming in a bucket of blueberries eating a goldfish!!!

20191017_100142

All us girls with Mickey – Look at the smiles…THIS is what making memories is all about!!!

 

 

 

Girls’ Trips, and why you need one!

 

For about eight years, I have attempted to organize and take a girls’ trip.  We have been successful MOST years, and we have done a few different things – including staying in Eleuthera, Bahamas multiple times and taking a cruise.  Our numbers have ranged from 4 of us to 11 so far.  In 2020, we are going to our first all inclusive in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and for this trip, we are up to 28 ladies!!!  It should be an amazing week.

Before I begin, let me start off by saying this isn’t about dad-bashing and why moms/women are the only ones that deserve a “break”.  Dads and father figures TOTALLY deserve a break and I encourage that!  But since I am a woman, I can really only speak from that perspective, so while it may seem like I am saying moms need a break because we do so much more than dads, that’s not totally true – although some DO do more than their significant others – or just DIFFERENT things.  When it comes down to it, it is typically the men at home holding down the fort so the moms CAN go away – so for that and so many other things, I am truly grateful.

But let’s face it!  Women do a lot!  I have a wonderful husband and I praise God every day for him.  But when it comes to the running of our home and keeping everything in smooth working order, that falls mostly on me.  I am the shopper, planner, chef, banker, appointment maker and taker, housekeeper (for the things my children do not do for chores), gardener, business owner, secretary and more.  I don’t resent this lot I have willingly accepted, but I do get tired of feeling like I do “everything”.  I am sure a lot of it has to do with my Type-A personality and things having to be a certain way (my way), but that is the way of it and I either embrace it or it breaks me.  Enter the girls’ trip!

I am so lucky to have a wonderful group of friends that truly care about one another and each other’s lives.  These ladies are people I can count on when the going gets rough and if you live in the real world, the going gets rough sometimes!  Relationships, marriages, raising kids, work, self-worth…these are all things women deal with and they are hard.  Many talks have been had at sunrise on the beach in Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera about feelings of shortcomings as wives, mothers, daughters and friends.  Beach therapy has saved some of those relationships and continues to work to preserve others.  The opportunity to spend precious time with other people who can relate to our most personal experiences on some level is priceless.

But it does cost.  Our girls’ trips have been kept at around $1000-$1200 each for a week.  So many women have said, “Oh I wish I could go but I just can’t afford it.” And for some, that is true.  People who raise a family on one salary, are still paying college loans, have had extra bills lately or unexpected expenses.  I get it.  But some people say they can’t afford it but really what they mean is, it isn’t necessary in their lives.  Rather, they would prefer to spend the $45 every two weeks on their nails or buy a new iPhone every time it comes out, or get Starbucks four days a week or whatever it is they CHOOSE to spend money on.  And that’s cool – for those people, those expenditures might have the same soothing effect as my once a year girls’ trip.  But for me, I want to go someplace (almost any place) where the only person I have to tend to is me.  I only have to pack for me; make sure I put on sunscreen and not everyone; skip a meal if I want; read in bed until 10am if I want; only do my own laundry and not have to clean up after anyone!  To me, that is worth the $20ish I have to save per week to go on my girls’ trip every year.

Every year, the ladies that are able to attend changes slightly, but I have some steadfast girls’ trippers and I am thankful for them and the close relationships we have formed on the beaches of the Caribbean.  I look to these ladies for help, guidance, celebration and they make up the core of my village.  These are also relationships that have taken work and as I have experienced with so many other relationships, it is worth the time and effort for those we care about.

I hope you get the chance to take that friends getaway – that time of rejuvenation, reflection, growth, self-evaluation and a little indulgence.  When you return to your families, you will do so with a fuller heart and a patient soul – ready to take on the world like the wonder woman that you are!  Here are a few photos taken on some Girls’ trips so far – most of the photos we take are group selfies so these are just some of the picturesque places to preserve the privacy of my friends.

293508_2466420016814_2039592705_n

Storm clouds following the island. Lighthouse Beach, Eleuthera, Bahamas

295943_2466475218194_586517685_n

Queen’s Bath, Eleuthera, Bahamas

298644_2467287638504_1853864832_n

Sunsets on Eleuthera are the most stunning ever! Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera, Bahamas

306367_2466421896861_2117769296_n

Lighthouse Beach, Eleuthera, Bahamas

310960_2466478538277_1843903078_n

Glass Window Bridge – where the “Caribbean” meets the Atlantic, Eleuthera, Bahamas

317822_2466481538352_925757142_n

Harbour Island – ACTUAL pink sand!!!

321689_2466416536727_330029946_n

The stillness of Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera, Bahamas

Throw Back Thursday….Growing up Disney

If you know me in real life, you now that if you start talking about Disney World, my eyes light up, my voice raises an octave and I talk 100 miles per minute because I LOVE DISNEY!!!!!  I know people who hate Disney and I am not sure they are human or believe in magic 😊  Seriously, though…I think you either love Disney or you do not…there aren’t many wishy washy Disney people out there!

When we plan our Disney trips (we go every 12-18 months), we start getting pretty psyched about a year out!  We start with the WHEN (we never go during school vacations or holidays), then move to the WHERE (we have stayed at Saratoga Springs, Bay Lake Towers, Animal Kingdom Resort, Coronado Springs, Old Key West, Art of Animation and the Polynesian).  We plan out which parks we will be at which days based on crowd projections, plan our dining experiences and fast passes when the time is right.  And then we wait – probably not so patiently – for our vacation to begin!!

I love helping my clients do all this planning as well!  It is a labor of love – as not all agents take on Disney, but I know it well and love to help bring the magic to others!  Every new trip presents a new point of view and new experience!  I have enjoyed this ritual trip with my family and have enjoyed how, at each stage of my kids’ lives, Disney brings another level of wonder and growth along with the crazy joy that is Disney!

Here are some of my favorite memories from some of our trips at Disney over the years.  This succession of memories are so precious to me!  They are experiences my kids will always remember as times spent with their parents, family and friends.  I hope as they become adults, they will also enjoy bringing their families to Disney and have the same fond remembrances that I do of my own childhood at Disney with my mom.  What an awesome gift!

PS – we ALWAYS wear matching/themed shirts and always will!  That is part of the fun!!

20190213_150349

I have a picture of my kids doing this SAME thing in London in 2013. It is fun to recreate special moments in different locations! EPCOT 2019

20190121_123412

Beef hot dogs. OK – well…what can I say?! We were at Disneyland Paris and needed a pick me up!!! 2019

20190121_144241

From the other side!!! Disneyland Paris 2019

20190121_151840

Finding Eva and Wally – pure joy!!!! Disneyland Paris 2019

20190121_100119

Gusteau’s!!! Disneyland Paris 2019

20180122_162512(0)

Germany/EPCOT 2018

20180123_092333

Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train, Magic Kingdom 2018

20161206_100107

Cousin’s Trip – Animal Kingdom 2016

20161208_010305

Magical Christmas – EVERY year!

20170228_110811

Magic Kingdom 2017 – mom and dad’s second trip to Disney without kids!!!!

20170301_103907

France/EPCOT

20190214_182919

Sunset from the Contemporary 2019

20190606_100813

Our first trip to Disney as family. Magic Kingdom 2006

20190606_100833

Magic Kingdom 2006

20190606_100852

Magic Kingdom 2009

20190606_100858

Magic Kingdom 2009

20190606_100934

Polynesian Luau 2013

20160206_170913612

Morocco/EPCOT 2015

20160206_171924739

Hollywood Studios 2015

20160206_171938113

Hollywood Studios 2015 (our favorite time of year to go to Disney is during the Holidays!

Throw Back Thursday – Italy 2016

aperol at sunset

Sunset in Sorrento, Italy reflected in Aperol Spritz.

20160419_152829

Looking down…..Ravello, Amalfi Coast, Italy

20160421_195852

San Gimignano towers through the window of our tower bedroom.

20160422_121256

Countryside view from Volterra, Italy

20160422_145218

Photo from the top of one of the towers – San Gimignano, Italy

20160423_121823_001

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

20160424_073053

San Gimignano in rain

20160424_184356

Zurich, Switzerland – these are our “Polish faces” – my sister in law is Polish, and she said Americans smile too big in pictures – so this is how we imagine the Poles smile!

In April 2016, my husband and I took our first week long vacation without our children!  They went to visit their grandparents on the West Coast (their first time traveling unaccompanied) and we took a long week to Italy!  Let me start off by saying it was everything I thought it would be and I loved every minute.

In a nut shell, we flew into Zurich, picked up a rental and drove to Rimini on the eastern coast of Italy, sitting nicely on the Adriatic Sea.  We spent our first night there and had the most wonderful seafood dinner ever!  The next morning, we headed towards Sorrento – but first we visited the micro country of San Marino and took time to stick our toes in the Adriatic.

We spent four nights in Sorrento and toured the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii and Naples.  We had our most expensive meal ever (the kind of place that doesn’t have prices on the LADIES’ menu!!) and also the best pizza in Naples!

We drove to Tuscany and spent another four nights in San Gimignano and toured that lovely hill town, Volterra, a winery, Florence and ate WAY too much!!!!

Finally, we spent a night in Zurich before we left the next day to return home, just ahead of our kids.  It was amazing and filled with wonderful surprises, character building struggles and joyful experiences that deepened the bond I have with my hubby.  Traveling does all those things for you and it is the main reason we enjoy traveling….it brings us together and challenges us!

Above are some of my favorite pictures from this fabulous journey!

 

EPCOT International Festival of the Arts

Disney has really branched out over the years, and I don’t mean into movies, marketing or memorabilia.  Those things are great, but not too long ago, Disney began to realize that if they diversified their game plan, they would engage whole new groups of people and bring them into the Parks.  A great example of this is all the festivals and yearly planned activities that have had growing attendance over the years – the Food and Wine Festival; Festival of the Arts; Flower and Garden Festival and the 5Ks, half and full marathons that are ever so popular.  The folks that work at Disney are geniuses….you can’t deny it!!!!

Twice now we have been lucky enough to be at Disney during the International Festival of the Arts and once during the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival.  These festivals are diverse – meaning they highlight many aspects of their theme.  For the Arts Festival, the “arts” is a broad term and is applied through the culinary, visual, textile and classical arts…and more!!  Disney weaves into these themes experiential opportunities to engage adults and children alike.  One of my favorite ways they do this is through the large color-by-number mural they do every day.  People are “assigned” a color and a number and are sent out to find their square on a large vertical canvas.  In the beginning, it is hard to see what the picture will be, but as the day goes on, the art materializes before your eyes and the idea that everyone plays an integral part coloring our world is as important as the next.  It is powerful on so many levels!

Here are some photos of this year’s EPCOT International Festival of the Arts.  I hope it encourages you to attend next year.  You won’t be sorry you did!

20190213_193728

A beautiful sight upon arrival! Remember Figment?

20190213_133225

Charlotte – pretty as a picture?

20190213_114005

The food during the Festival of the Arts is just as amazing as the sights! This delight is a palette of white chocolate accompanied by “colors” of painting chocolate and sprinkles. What fun!!!

20190213_133314

Scream? She fits right in!! hahahaha

20190213_133348

Brother had to get into the action!

20190213_151555

My favorite stop is right around Canada…the Bloody Mary’s are to die for and the poutine chips with lobster meat….magnifique!

20190213_151800

Yes, these were BOTH for me!

Post Vacation Reboot! Getting my brain to reengage.

So, it’s hard to get back into the swing of things after vacation.  My brain still wants to be on vacation!  And yet, I know I need to start writing again because it keeps my mind flowing!  So if my brain is still on vacation, I guess I should write about vacation!  Here’s an overview – details to follow in other posts!

This February, we departed the great North East during my kids’ February vacation with thousands of others and headed to a much warmer climate!!  We spent 4 days in Florida at the Happiest Place on Earth and then went on a 7 night Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the amazing Symphony of the Seas – Royal Caribbean’s newest marvel!  We had the best time!!  Let me highlight each day with my favorite photo from that day!

20190214_081147 (1)

We are members of Disney Vacation Club and this was our first stay at Bay Lake Towers. We love staying on the monorail line and being able to walk to the Magic Kingdom is wonderful!!!

20190214_145149

I cannot help but get a little teary eyed when the opening music plays at Magic Kingdom. It brings back memories that I cherish and makes me feel like a kid!

20190214_083248

To me, this photo says, “Follow your dreams.” What greater lessons can we learn from a man and a mouse?

20190213_160117

EPCOT is cool for so many reasons! My hubby was definitely rocking this Wreck It Ralph pose!!!

20190213_150349

I have a picture of my kids doing this SAME thing in London in 2013. It is fun to recreate special moments in different locations!

20190218_073124

Our boarding day on Symphony of the Seas – she blew me away! I marveled every day at her size, how smoothly she sailed, all of her wonderful amenities and how I felt at home on the giantess of the seas!! I cannot wait to go back!

20190219_144052

A day at sea means we get to play at sea! Ten stories above the Boardwalk, I zip-lined across a cruise ship!!!! How cool is that?

20190220_210827

Symphony After Dark! Stunning!

20190220_171009

My girl makes friends wherever she goes and this beautiful fellow wanted to stick around!

20190222_130530

T-Rex, know affectionately as “Rexy” in our family, made an appearance our last day at sea. We may or may not have a few videos of this!

20190220_165200

Sunset in the Caribbean. Do I need to say more?